As your sales rep for US Lab Robotics Inc., here's an update about our most recent models. We've come a long way since UK researchers built the first science robot. In hindsight, that first model was rather primitive. To quote its designers, it "automatically originates hypotheses to explain observations, devises experiments to test these hypotheses, physically runs the experiments using a laboratory robot, interprets the results to falsify hypotheses inconsistent with the data, and then repeats the cycle."1
Of course, most scientists don't want robots to do their bench work, they want them to complete all the other tasks in their lives. And we bumbled when we introduced our misguided Postdocatroid, which didn't sell well because most PIs already treat their postdocs like automatons. But we've learned our lessons and improved our product offerings. We've built several best-selling lines of science robots, and we're leading the market in almost...
Our best-selling model! Who enjoys filling out grants? RO1x completes any NIH, NSF, or DOE grant application form, leaving only the signature to you. Guaranteed to put your research idea into terms that grant reviewers love (such as "riskless," "bound to work," and "sure thing"). RO1x is also programmed to avoid 'red flag' words (like "transsexual", "politics", or "maybe"). Coming next year will be the FrameworkFunder, which has enough computing power to fill out a European Union grant form in a dozen languages, including BrusselsSpeak.
LAB TECH DROID 1.0
Designing a robot to replace the lab technician was our biggest challenge, because these folk do most of the work! After all, technicians normally run the experiments, manage the personnel and keep the books balanced, despite the fact (scratch that –
COMMITTEE ATTENDER 2.0
Our first line of Committee Attenders was just so-so, so we listened to your complaints and fixed the bugs! The new AlwaysOn™ feature forces the ocular device to run continuously, even when the unit goes into sleep mode. And the Doodler software has been corrected to draw only geometric shapes and amorphous designs, rather than caricaturing the other attendees. The price tag on The Attender is a little high, but saving 30–40 hours a week of your time is priceless. (Act now, and we'll throw in a set of free drool bibs!)
Get rid of your department chairperson, get rid of your hassles! Instead of memos about your overuse of the department's copier, now you'll only get glowing support, increase-funding suggestions, and constant queries about whether you want more lab space.
This unit resembles the average 20-some thing undergrad, right down to attitude. Instructions: Place unit in empty classroom about 15 minutes before scheduled start. Upon sensing a student's approach, our droid outputs phrases like "Professor _______'s (insert name of chief inter-departmental competitor) Biology 101 class is so much easier – you can cut all you want and every test is take-home." Arrive 10 minutes late for scheduled class, fill out all the drop-class forms and return to your lab. Kiss the droid, then drop it in nearest dumpster.
IT is equipped with our patented Handwriter™ device, which signs any non-disclosure agreement you put before it. In addition, IT will write a check without requesting rights to your intellectual property! And IT is programmed to never say the sentence: "But where's the payoff?"
IP LAWYERDROID X20 (Not in Stock)
This Armani-suited edition is the only known robot to have a Harvard law degree and a MIT-issued PhD. Unfortunately, we shelved the X20 after it proved to excel only at generating billable hours. We're working to fix the bugs, and should have it back in the warehouse soon. Until then, you'll just have to fill out those patent applications yourself.
PI 2000 (Young Researcher Special)
A 20% discount for all grad students and postdocs on this unit. Lets you get your work done early, smiles when you ask for time off to attend your newborn's delivery, writes voluminous letters of recommendation on demand, and listens attentively to your suggestions for improvement. The most popular feature is its software-driven Random Complement Driver, which actually says that you you're doing a good job. Caution: Use for wish fulfillment purposes only! Obviously, do not use in actual lab environment in the presence of your PI.
SCIENCE JOURNALIST X
This model conducts quick interviews and is programmed never to ask a stupid question. Thanks to our industry-leading artificial intelligence research, the X is guaranteed to get the science right as much as 50% of the time (a 10-fold improvement over the human average).
Sam Jaffe can be contacted at